Erin Smego – Chicago, Illinois


“Untitled”; october 2013; cardboard, gouache; approx. 5″ x approx. 5″

Briefly describe the work you do.

I create abstract paintings and drawings, artist books, and installations. These works serve as layer of communication that I feel is often missing between the world and myself; a disconnect which I sometimes struggle to bridge.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

I graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Currently, I work and reside in Chicago. What’s amazing about Chicago is its accessiblility to contemporary art and friendly community of artists.

The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

My studio practice is currently traditional and solitary. I like making things, painting, drawing, creating artist books, cutting shapes out of cardboard on a dropcloth that also happens to be my bedroom. I’m constantly inventing shapes in my sketchbook or in my head, even if I’m not physically in the studio. Although, I’ve recently started to push my work toward more sculptural and installations which would most likely lead to more collaborations with other artists, and potentially change my work and my studio practice.


“Untitled (layout sketch for untitled cardboard cut-outs);” october 2013; cardboard, gouache; each approx. 5″ x 5″

What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

I’m not sure exactly what I envisioned. I like to go with the flow and see what feels right for myself. I usually go about doing things intuitively without being illogical.

When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can? 

I’ve always been a night owl, and am the most productive later at night. I joke that the sunlight is judging me! I’ve finally learned to work during the daytime as well even though the nighttime is preferred. I don’t work on a set schedule, however, I’m constantly making work.


“untitled (layout sketch for untitled cardboard cut-outs);” october 2013; cardboard, gouache; each approx. 5″ x 5″

How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?

My work has changed drastically in the past five years. Now I consider myself almost exclusively an abstract artist, whereas that wasn’t the case prior. Also, I used to solely make paintings and drawings, and in the last year I’ve integrated sculpture and installation into my body of work.

Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?

My mom has definitely impacted my use of color! My parents built our house, and have always done everything themselves, which I greatly admire. When I was younger, my mom used to take me as a second opinion to look at paint samples (for house paint) for hours! It made me really aware of color, which I’m so thankful for now. My dad consistently teaches himself how to do and make new things constantly which is a mentality I try to live by.

I live to look at other artists’ work, whether it’s on the internet or in person. Artists that continue to impact my work include friends, former professors, local artists and some artists I’ve never met! Jessica Calek, Dan Streeting, Caitlin Mattia, Steve Juras, Melissa Urbonas, Jenn Smith, Veronica Bruce, Judith Geichman, Dana DeGiulio, Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, Dan Devening, Erin Washington, Antonia Gurkovska, Sabina Ott, Eva Hesse, and Richard Tuttle.

If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?

Anything that would allow me to have enough free time to continue to be an artist.

Smego headshotAbout Erin Smego

Smego graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She currently works and resides in Chicago with plans to eventually receive her MFA. Erin Smego is an abstract artist who engages with her imagination. Her mediums consist either painting and drawings, art books, or more recently cardboard cut-out installations. She also works in oil on canvas. Recently her paintings and drawings have utilized alternative materials such as cardboard, caulk, and sandpaper as well as marker, watercolor, and gouache drawings on paper. She has shown work in Chicago, San Diego, and Berlin.

Erin Smego in her studio

Erin Smego in her studio

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 

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